Less than half of young people proud of England
Should you be proud of your country? A major survey has revealed a sharp fall in patriotism among the young. One in 10 said they were “embarrassed” to be English. Is national pride so bad?
A major study has revealed that English identity is in crisis just over a week before the surge of patriotism that is the World Cup begins.
According to YouGov’s survey of 20,081 people for the BBC, young people are much less likely to feel proud to be English than older generations. It found that while 72% of those over 65 are proud to be English, only 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds felt the same way.
One in 10 young people even feel “embarrassed” to be English.
The divide is geographical as well as generational. In parts of the Midlands 90% of people feel strongly English. In parts of London that number is under a third. It is also political: Brexit voters and Conservative voters were much more likely to identify as English than other people.
The biggest divide is the difference between Englishness and Britishness. The survey found that British identity is felt strongly by all generations.
So why the crisis in Englishness?
England is a strange country. It has no parliament. Its national day is not a public holiday. The politics of devolution over the last 20 years have focused on other parts of the UK, leaving many English people resentful.
There is also a fear that patriotism blends into more sinister forms of nationalism. In recent years the English flag has become associated with far-right groups like the English Defence League.
England has not faced nearly as many fights for its own survival as other countries where patriotism is more widespread. The US was founded in war and has the unifying factor of the Constitution to bind it together.
Countries in Eastern Europe, where patriotism tends to be higher than in Western Europe, have long, tragic histories of invasion and violence, creating siege mentalities. England, meanwhile, has lived in relative comfort for centuries.
Then there are the darker elements of England’s past, such as slavery and the Empire. For many, this makes national pride a difficult feeling to accept.
Is it right to be proud of your country?
The English question
Of course it is, say some. Your country forms your character more than almost anything else. Every nation has done some bad things in the past, but you should be grateful for the best of what your homeland has handed down to you. Patriotism creates a sense of togetherness. Without pride in itself, a country cannot survive.
Patriotism leads to conflict, reply others. Being proud of your country stops you seeing history objectively, and encourages pointless feuds and rivalries. What’s more, England’s violent past urges humility, not pride. Lastly, in this globalised world we must celebrate the values that make us all similar — not the arbitrary borders that keep us apart.
- Are you proud of your country?
- Is there a difference between patriotism and nationalism? If so, what is it?
- Draw a line down a sheet of paper. On one side, write down the first words that come to mind when you think of the word “England”. On the other, write down what comes to mind when you think of “Britain”.
- The illustration above lists five very patriotic nations, and five less patriotic nations (according to a YouGov survey). In pairs or groups discuss potential reasons why the people of each country might be more or less patriotic. Compare your ideas with the class.
Some People Say...
“Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”Albert Einstein
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- A survey has revealed that there is a huge difference between how people view Englishness and Britishness. Englishness is seen as traditional, conservative and exclusive, whereas Britishness is viewed as more liberal and inclusive. Older people are far more likely to identify as English than younger people. Patriotism is on the decline in much of Western Europe and on the rise in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
- What do we not know?
- How Brexit will affect people’s view of Englishness. England voted more heavily for Brexit than any other country in the United Kingdom (though a majority in Wales also voted for leave). And should Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland ever leave the union, it could result in a more visible reassertion of English identity.
- World Cup
- The World Cup begins in Russia on Thursday of next week, with England’s first match taking place on Monday, June 18.
- The YouGov survey also asked respondents which characteristics they most associated with England. The top three were the sense of humour, good manners and traditionalism. Less than half thought that English people were liberal, while 38% associated it with “yob culture”.
- Strongly by all generations
- Of both 18- to 24-year-olds and 50- to 64-year-olds, 83% said they have a powerful association with Britain.
- National day is not a public holiday
- Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised to make all four national saints’ days public holidays if he becomes prime minister.
- Politics of devolution
- In the last 20 years, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all been granted more power to govern themselves.
- Eastern Europe
- Several Eastern European countries, especially Poland and Hungary, have populist right-wing leaders and are in conflict with the European Union over immigration.